BANGKOK — Security officers on Thursday said they suspected a shadowy militant group called BRN as the party responsible for an attack that killed 15 people in Yala province.
Military officials told the media the separatist group National Revolution Front, or BRN, led Tuesday night’s fatal raid on the checkpoint, killing 15 armed volunteers and stealing their firearms. Five people were also wounded in the incident – the worst in recent years.
According to the officials, about 60 assailants participated in the attack, which started with the militants hurling homemade at the defenders before they overran the checkpoint thanks to a superior firepower.
Showing a high degree of coordination, several police and military outposts in the area also came under fire at the same time, apparently to cut off any help. Investigators said the attackers then planted IEDs along their escape route to delay pursuits.
Regional army commander Lt. Gen. Pornsak Poonsawat said the military is hunting down those responsible for the killings.
“It is time for the public to come out and oppose individuals who caused violence and killed innocent people,” Lt. Gen. Pornsak told reporters.
The BRN is believed to be the most powerful and heavily armed among insurgent groups active in Yala and its neighboring provinces, known colloquially as the Deep South. The cell has been blamed for various attacks on security forces and civilians, including a string of bombings on 2016 Mother’s Day holidays.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha sent his condolences to the families of the victims, which consist of male and female volunteers, and said the bloodlettings would only harden the military’s resolve.
“This incident does not demoralize us,” Gen. Prayuth said. “It would only prompt our security officials and agencies to work harder.”
Wife of Samsaming Sama, one of the two Muslims who were killed alongside their Buddhist compatriots, said she last saw Samsaming just two hours prior to the attack, when Samsaming told her he was leaving to man the post.
Sarinya Jaiya said she has yet to tell their three-year-old daughter what happened to Samsaming.
“My daughter kept asking for her father, because he bathed her every morning,” Sarinya said. “They were very close.”
Thidarat Yodkaew, who lost both parents in the attack, said she’s saddened by the losses but took solace from their commitment to duty.
“The survivors told me my father fought the attackers with his gun until he ran out of bullets,” Thidarat said.
The National Human Rights Commission condemned the raid as a “cruel” act violates human rights and religious ethos.
A least 5,800 people have been killed in the Deep South since the secessionist violence erupted 15 years ago. The insurgents are aiming to secede the Muslim-majority region and revive an independent Islamic state called Patani.